I’m beginning to suspect the ecosystem of online course production will end up looking something like this:
The chart also needs additional axes to capture social layer, enrollment size (small/traditional or full-on MOOC), and whether learning is meant to be formal or informal. iTunesU certainly looks to be shaping up into a lower-right quadrant offering, but with their recent Piazza partnership, looks to be attempting to add on a social layer.
I’m just not convinced that every university, even with venture funding from groups like 2Tor and Gates, has the ability to generate large numbers of high-quality courses. Nor is there really a need for them to. Universities will likely produce a smaller number of hi-fi courses in their core areas of excellence and then accept transfer credits from other online sources that meet an agreed-upon set of quality and technological standards. This also creates a potential market niche in the lower-right quadrant for high-level, high-quality experience aggregators who can blend these disparate courses into a highly customized and personalized degree program, including support services, etc. Something like the bastard step-child of Western Governor’s University, iTunesU, New Charter University and Athena University.
Well, as it turns out, looks like someone’s trying to explore that lower-right quadrant. MIT, P2PU, OpenStudy & Codeacadamy are collaborating on a concept they’re calling “Mechanical MOOC”: http://www.hackeducation.com/2012/08/21/the-mechanical-mooc/. Looks like they’re using email lists to distribute links to curated, remix able online content instead of RSS. They’re using OpenStudy for the engagement piece, with the idea that students join cohorts, can “fall back” a cohort if they want to pause the course instead of dropping out (a big Coursera/Udacity problem).
It’s an interesting modular approach to building a MOOC: surface content from a variety of sources, pull together an engagement piece from another provider, provide collaboration tools from yet another provider and work through yet another provider to curate and facilitate all of this. No central LMS to manage the process.
In a way, I really like this model. It’s very related to the modular approach of cMOOCs (like Downes’ gRSShopper architecture) and DS106 in the lower left quadrant. I suspect, based on Michael Feldstein’s recent piece on Blackboard’s platform strategy (http://mfeldstein.com/blackboards-new-platform-strategy/), that Bb is thinking about this approach as well.
Is the opportunity for disruptive innovation in online learning in that bottom right quadrant?
To succeed in this rapidly changing landscape is going to require a wholesale rethinking by universities of their online/distance learning programs.